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"Metal Monsters?" Yeah, creatures called Viji. Their distinguishing traits are as follows:

1: Orb-like heads

2: Strong talons (noted for viselike grip and capacity to lock on grasped objects)

3: Bipedal, roughly humanoid bodies

4: Metal plating covering the body, like a knight clad in armor made of giant scales

Viji have human-level intelligence (self-awareness and intelligence akin to a human) and are covered in natural metal armor, yet they live on mountains. This is odd, as:

A) Metal conducts temperate extremely well, and thus would likely leech heat away from Viji to lethal effect (source: in a science exhibit, there was temperature station with a slab of ice and freezing aluminum kept side-by-side. Despite being the same temperature, the aluminum felt colder.)

B) Lightning strikes the closest possible conduit to the ground, metal is pretty conductive, so Viji on mountains need to either live as low as possible or simply adapt to survive lightning strikes. I'm not sure that Viji armor will work as a Faraday cage, thanks to [this question that outlines how lightning will absolutely murder a knight in plate.] 1

So, in essence, my question is What Adaptations Do Viji Need To Survive On Mountains?

Specifications For Best Answer:

  1. The best answer will identify the most likely adaptations for mountain survival, considering both the above issues and whatever other issues would exist for metal-armored, mutated hominids. (Yes, Viji are hominids, just highly modified ones that resemble lizards more than people and incorporate metals they ingest into their body, mainly their scales and claws).

  2. The best answer will also explain why these traits would be selected for, even when Viji aren't necessarily forced to live on mountains. My idea is that if there is sufficient reason for lighting and cold-protecting traits to develop off of mountains, it will happen naturally and then Viji could go to the mountains for greater protection.

Clarification:

Incorporating metal from the environment may seem unfeasible, but the scaly-foot snail proves it's possible. As for what 'plating' means, think pangolin-overlapping scales grown from the skin. These scales are modified bony plates, but the "bone" is reinforced with steel (which I believe is made of a iron-carbon mix) in the place of calcium.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know why they need special lightning protection. It isn't as though a human who gets struck by lightning is in for a fun time... but such incidents are rare to begin with. Even if it's more lethal for viji, I can't see it being common enough to matter. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Aug 20 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence: um, they're covered in metal, and living on mountains...I feel it's going to be common. Plus, the linked question explains the horrible danger of arc flashes, which should address your concern quite well.... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Aug 20 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ Details required: What metal is the "plating" made of? Is it just "plating" or is it actually an exoskeleton? Bipedal humanoid is the shape, but what is the size? Finally, the tags are a little confusing - there's "low-fantasy" but the phrasing suggests science-based answers are wanted. Are you just wanting answers to thermal regulation and lightning protection, while ignoring all other (probably unanswerable) issues such as consuming metals and converting it into biological armour? $\endgroup$ Aug 20 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055: I've added the requested details. My world is low-fantasy, but answers should indeed be science-based, so I've also added the science-based tag. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Aug 20 at 22:27
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Heat: The plates themselves need not have much higher conductivity than human skin but they probably will so the issue is stopping the body from losing heat to them rather than them losing heat to their environment. The tissue producing the plates/connecting them to the body needs to be thermally isolated from the internal organs as much as possible. I would suggest that a thick layer of fat, similar to the human lymph system that separates the skin from the muscles but far more substantial, or air sacs be used to create a natural heat barrier between the skin and the rest of the body.

Lightning: The metallic armour will actually preferentially conduct lightning over the surface of the creature making harm to internal organs less likely than in the case of a human being whose insides are more conductive than its skin. This is the same mechanism that allows aircraft to survive lightning strikes without electrocuting the passengers. The largely detached and air-gaped plating roots outlined in thermal insulation does the same job of stopping current crossing into the body as well.

There are usually some basic metabolic challenges for mountain dwelling animals of large size due to the scarcity of food but given their biological use of metal they may in fact eat rocks using similar metabolic pathways to sulfur reducing or iron oxidising bacteria.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, very thorough! I have to ask, though, what effect would this fat layer under the plates have? Would it perhaps make the plates easier to tear off? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 8 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias It may make them slightly easier to pull off if they can move more freely because they have softer tissue under them but it will also make the creature more resilient in the event of falls or impacts than they would otherwise be. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 9 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, so it's worth the risk. Though, I must wonder if connective tissue should develop to hold the plates onto the body through natural selection? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 9 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, and thanks for the clarification! It really helped with my concern. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 9 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias Possibly if predation is a major selection factor, falls are likely in rugged terrain predation may or may not be depending on the overall ecology. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 12 at 5:38
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The human body is mostly water, which conducts temperature extremly well, hence why house heaters use water or why humans sweat to dissipate excess heat.

Dried down, the human body is mostly nitrogen, carbon, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, gold, silver, zinc, copper, mercury and so on... most of them are good to extremely good conductors, except nitrogen.

Humans fight excess cold with a stronger metabolism while awake and a slower metabolism while sleeping and by being stokier and shorter.

Now don't ask me why polish, northern chinese people, russians , fins and germanic people are so tall if being shorter helps with the cold, instead ask yourself how much taller would they have been if they adapted for a hotter climate.

so the answer would be to make your human armadillos have more fat underneat the metal plating, more muscle and be closer to the floor.

Also being a good conductor helps you survive lightning strikes, it might stop your heart and paralize your muscles... but if you are a bad conductor, it will set you on fire like a human candle (fat burns extremly well)

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  • $\begingroup$ Great first post, welcome to the site! However, I'm confused about how a slower metabolism helps one survive cold while asleep, and how being smaller helps with the cold...could you please add some sources to improve your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Aug 20 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Alendyias heat up a blade and ball of metal of the same weight, the ball will take longer to lose all the heat, simply because the mass concentrated in the same place, while on the blade more mass is closer to air. Longer humans have a harder time being chunkier, shorter humans have a easier time being chunkier due to the square cube law. $\endgroup$
    – user88653
    Aug 20 at 23:01
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First question to ask yourself when designing a creature: what does it eat and where does it come out? Okay maybe the last one isn’t as important. But the point isn’t that diet shapes the animal (hominids in your case). Most mountain animals are grazing animals like mountain goats but there’s also predators, birds of prey being the most successful in hard to reach areas. Tallons suggest the Viji are predators but will also help them climb the mountains. I suggest their hands be covered with snake-like scales to get a grip on imperfections in the rocks.

Secondly there’s environmental pressure. Viji are obviously going to need adaptations against the cold. Normally you’d have fur or feathers but they are ironclad which limits us to sea turtles for reference. Here’s why: sea turtles that live near the arctic are cold blooded but survive nonetheless. They focus their warm blood to vital organs like the heart and their front flipper to keep swimming and avoid drowning. However they need warmth for digestion and to regenerate their tissue properly, which means they periodically rest and bask in the sun for warmth. Large body size also helps conserve heat and makes them more energy efficient. Layers of fat also help.

Being ironclad also means the Viji are going to have to avoid rain, but not because they are afraid of rusting. Humidity is very bad because it leeches body heat, especially in high altitudes where there’s lots of wind. They’ll have to avoid the rain or any humidity for long periods of time. If they have no place to hide they may have to clump up together to protect each other from the cold and the rain. Or they can also secrete oily substances like birds and smear them on their armor regularly to keep the water off.

Overall very fearsome predators that are very hardy thanks to their armor, resistance to the cold and lack of food and water. Why are they afraid of lightning? No one knows. Maybe that’s the only thing they can’t fight back against and that scares them. If they’re smart they’ll hide.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this is exactly the kind of detail I was missing! Good point on them being predatory; I didn't think of the implications of claws. That would be quite the twist there, considering its implications for if they obtain their armor through diet.... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 8 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer, it helped me develop the Viji concept! Now Viji will be predatory and use oily secretions to protect against moisture, and will quite likely warm themselves periodically. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 12 at 2:10

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